Some changes can be good for the town

I DO get rather tired of former leading Tories constantly lambasting this column for its apparent pro-council or pro-Labour bias – especially on the subject of Ipswich's transport system.

I DO get rather tired of former leading Tories constantly lambasting this column for its apparent pro-council or pro-Labour bias – especially on the subject of Ipswich's transport system.

The whole point of this column is that it is politically independent – which means it is right to praise something that's good for the town as well as criticising things that are bad for it.

And Ipswich and Suffolk councils have made some transport decisions that look disastrous for the town.

The worst example at present is the question of access to Ipswich Port.

Everyone seems to agree that they want the port to grow and prosper, creating more jobs and generating more investment.

But when it comes to accessing it, the politicians are developing an ostrich strategy – stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away.

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The borough, quite understandably for environmental reasons, doesn't want a new road on to the A14 passing near Piper's Vale.

The port – equally understandably for its commercial reasons – doesn't want a public road through its West Bank Terminal and across the lock gates distrupting its operations.

And both sides reckon that a new high bridge over the river to Sandy Hill Lane would be too expensive to pursue.

So what's the council's answer?

Resurface Wherstead and Landseer Roads and remove the night-time lorry ban on them.

Then you can turn Star Lane into a two-way street and make College Street a "green route" for buses and bikes only.

It's a recipe for chaos and congestion – and its totally daft.

But while their transport policy around the docks is crazy, the policy for the town centre is eminently sensible and workable – so long as drivers obey the signs that have been put up.

Okay, there are teething troubles – you'll always get that – but once the lights are sorted out in St Margarets Street and the roundabout at St Matthews has a few yellow boxes painted on it, everything should be fine.

And all these people whingeing about the new system should remember that the public had their chance to say what they wanted to happen in the town centre in a major consultation exercise four years ago.

The vast majority of replies were in support of the system now introduced.

Are its critics saying they only believe in democracy when it suits them?

I'm also rather fed up of people saying the traffic in Ipswich is so bad that they now go shopping in Colchester, Norwich or Cambridge.

What planet are they living on?

The traffic in those three towns and cities is far worse than you get in Ipswich.

Cars are effectively completely banned from Cambridge, and you have to queue for ages to get anywhere near car parks in the other two centres.

And they've all banned cars from their shopping centres.

My family regularly goes shopping in Norwich – not because its easier to park there, but because it's got shops we haven't got in Ipswich and a fantastic market.

But we always either go by train or use the park and ride from Harford Bridge.

So let's be clear why people are attacking our local councils – if it's simply because you don't like their politics, fair enough.

But if you want to claim your reasons are above the party political fray, then choose your target more carefully!

WATCHING the negotiations between the firefighters' union and the employers over the last couple of weeks, I've been left wondering what the bosses are up to.

The union has a militant reputation and is making an unrealistic pay claim.

But the bosses seem unable to appreciate that its leaders bent over backwards to put off strike action and prevent the disaster that could lead to.

Last week the talks were adjourned on Wednesday, and the bosses said they could not meet again for six days – just a day before the first strike was due to start.

Didn't they realise that the union, in putting off its first three strikes, has already made significant concessions – concessions that haven't gone down well with some members in the fire stations.

When the results of the pay review were finally published early this week, it became clear that strikes are now unavoidable.

There simply hasn't been any time for the two sides to talk over the offer – only the bosses know why it has taken so long to produce the report.

What the bosses have done, I'm sure, is to change the perception of many people from outside the industry looking on at what has happened – now the union looks like the side prepared to make a deal while the bosses are just trying to squirm.

Of course there's right on both sides – but round one in the public relations war has gone to the union.

IS Ipswich Labour Party running scared after nearly 24 years in power in Civic Centre?

The party is, I'm told, going to push all its resources into winning back the Alexandra Ward seat that it lost to the Liberal Democrats at next May's local council elections.

The party is to leave St Margarets alone almost completely – so tough luck on any Labour candidate there then!

But not all members are confident that they'll hold of the Lib Dem challenge in Alexandra.

"I wouldn't bet on us winning it," one leading Labour member told me. "Many Labour members reckon the Lib Dems could be running Ipswich Council in 10 years' time – just like they run Norwich, Colchester and Cambridge today."

If my contact is right, then Ipswich would undergo an amazing transformation – but the very fact that Labour members are thinking like that shows how worried they must be.

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